If you think about it, all of creation has been in survival mode since the Fall — trying to meet our own needs, creating our own gods, always chased by a fear of lack. Yet if we examine God’s relationship with us, it always begins with “I Am.” Whatever you need. Wherever you are. Whatever you are going through, I Am.
God doesn’t begin His relationships with rules and regulations, but with His presence. Relationship must precede rules and boundaries. We don’t send a newborn to bed without his supper because he cries. We don’t correct a new convert when he lets out a string of expletives right after a worship service (or we shouldn’t, at least). By the same token, we shouldn’t punish a child for being unable to self-regulate because he experienced early trauma.
We are born wired for attachment. As the authors of Wounded Children, Healing Homes explain, “Eye-to-eye contact is a critical link that sets the brain toward balanced regulation. The mutual gaze leads to emotional attunement; a deeply satisfying experience of feeling harmonious oneness and completeness, not unlike the peace experienced in the womb. Without the attentive loving gaze and emotional responsiveness of the parent, the infant brain struggles on its own to develop and mature.”
So how did God attach to His first children?
He provided for their physical needs.
God planted a garden and set man over it: “And the Lord God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden [delight]; and there He put the man whom He had formed (framed, constituted). And out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight or to be desired—good (suitable, pleasant) for food; the tree of life also in the center of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of [the difference between] good and evil and blessing and calamity.” (Genesis 2:8-9)
He provided human companionship.
God created Eve as a helpmeet for Adam: “And the rib or part of his side which the Lord God had taken from the man He built up and made into a woman, and He brought her to the man.” (Genesis 2:22)
He offered His presence and a relationship.
God came and walked and talked with them: “And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day. . .” (Genesis 3:8a)
This was a picture of perfect attachment — secure attachment.
Broken Attachment and the Fall
After the Fall, everything changed.
Adam and Eve were banished from Eden, evicted from the only lifestyle they had ever known. Not only did they lose the presence of God, but they also lost their home and carried the shame of the Fall.
I’m sure it was beyond stressful. When Eve said, “I have gotten and gained a man with the help of the Lord” (Genesis 4:1), she may have been in survival mode. How do you survive without the presence of God, who walked and talked with you daily? How do you handle life on earth without preternatural gifts?
Let’s put ourselves in Eve’s place. Evicted. Homeless. Alone. The constant supply of free food is gone. She feels shame. Her husband tills the ground, which brings forth thorns and thistles. She must dress herself and her family. Do you think she may have been depressed? Avoidant? Ambivalent? Checked out? I would have.
We have no written record about the parenting style of Eve, but we can hazard some guesses based on the actions of Cain. (This is not to say that every child who participates in aberrant behavior can blame it on Mom, as Sigmund Freud thought.) Cain was stuck in one of Dreikurs’ mistaken goals (see Chapter 5). For some reason, even though Abel was securely attached, Cain decided he shouldn’t try.
“The brain is “experience expectant”. That is, it is hard wired to expect certain signals, such as eye contact, kind touch, rocking, loving voice tones, playful interactions, and assistance from others during sickness or distress.” -Deborah Gray, Nurturing Adoptions
When Eve said, “I have gotten a man,” I don’t read a whole lot of excitement there. Do you? I could be wrong, but I picture her being detached herself. It definitely doesn’t sound like secure attachment.
So what does secure attachment look like? According to Bowbly, as cited in Nurturing Adoptions, securely attached children believe the following:
• My parents come back. They are reliable.
• I am worth coming back to.
• I can depend on my parents and the people they entrust to educate and spend time with me.
• My feelings are mirrored back to me so that I can process how I feel and how others feel.
• I want to please my parents most of the time.
• I am rewarded for becoming competent, for my creativity, and for my positive states.
• I can get help with psychologically overwhelming events and feelings.
• My parents will teach me how to cope with problems and how to resolve them.
• Intimacy is enjoyable.
• My needs are routinely met in a timely, sensitive manner.
• Repairs to relationship disruptions are empathic and prompt.
If we ourselves have felt secure attachment, we expect our children to follow that pattern, as well — even if their experiences have been vastly different from ours.We parents tend to expect our newly adopted children to enter the home and quickly develop a secure attachment style. We assume that they know the amount of time and work it took to secure their adoption.
Children who struggle with attachment issues need time to attach to one or two parents. Otherwise, they will remain unattached yet be superficially engaging to strangers. They may look like happy-go-lucky, well-adjusted children in public, but in the privacy of the home, they demand control. They are miniature terrorists (or large ones, depending on their age), ruling the household with anger, violence, and battles choreographed over insignificant things in order to control their environment.
It is a sort of self-soothing. These children had to meet their own needs early on. No one was there for them. They need to know their needs will be met, and they believe they must meet them themselves — so they do. However, the way they accomplish this goal is painful in a family.
In an orphanage, stealing food may be acceptable as a means of survival. In a family, stealing is definitely frowned upon. In an orphanage, lying may be the norm. In a home, it is not. Beating up other children to get things from them may be just another Tuesday afternoon. In a home, beating a sibling to get a toy or any other item is absolutely unacceptable. Sneaking into the staff kitchen to eat their sugar may occur on a regular basis in the orphanage, but in a home, sneaking into Mom’s room and taking her possessions is not.
It is not that these children want to be hoodlums. They aren’t even trying to be difficult. They just have some faulty presuppositions leading the way. In their early life, someone failed to meet their needs. They did not attach to anyone. Because of that, early on, they learned to meet their own needs. It started with them losing the ability to communicate — they stopped crying. Crying is a baby’s only form of communication, but babies will eventually stop crying if no one ever responds.
“An infant born into neglect learns slightly different lessons. For him, the bonding cycle is short circuited. Instead of experiencing need, high arousal, gratification, and trust in others, he experiences need, high arousal to the point of exhaustion, self-gratification, and trust in self/self-reliance. Eventually this child develops less need, less arousal, more immediate self-gratification, and no involvement with others. He is likely to develop habits to gratify himself that may include rocking, head banging, sucking on his hands, hair pulling, etc.. He may grow up detached from others, appearing vacant and empty. He has few emotions and desires no interaction from others, even acting if no others are present in a room.
He has effectively learned that he can — and needs — to trust himself.” – Adopting the Hurt Child
Humanism tells us that everything is done by the power of a man. It teaches that man is able to sustain himself without God, without the Spirit. Studies on attachment beg to differ. Man is not sufficient on his own. He can not sustain body, soul, and spirit alone. The spirit of the child vacates when there is no attachment. He is like Cain, roaming the earth with no meaningful connection. Cain tried to meet his own needs rather than accepting the mercy and love of His heavenly Father. He was unattached and demanded his way. In the last chapter, we discussed the end result of that.
“Infants deprived of their mothers during the first year of life for more than five months deteriorate progressively. They become lethargic, their motility retarded, their weight and growth arrested. Their face becomes vacuous; their activity is restricted to atypical, bizarre finger movements. they are unable to sit, stand, walk or talk.” -Rene Spitz M.D.
Children who have been traumatized in infancy and early childhood cannot be expected to behave or respond to stimuli in the same way as children who have not. As an example, consider two cases that were presented in my adopt/foster class.
There are two babies: Baby A and Baby B.
Baby A has been celebrated since the positive on the pregnancy test. She has listened to symphonies, classic children’s books, and poetry in the womb, as well as mommy and daddy’s reassuring, loving voices. When she was born, the video camera captured her debut. Mom, Dad and Grandparents cried joyful tears. She rode home in a padded car seat, wrapped in fuzzy lamb’s wool.
At home, Mom and Dad talked and cooed to her every waking hour and told stories of her latest feat to anyone who would listen. Baby A took her first steps into daddy’s outstretched arms, waiting to receive her. Baby A had it all — a clean, loving, secure environment with loving parents to cheer her on.
Baby B, on the other hand, was called a mistake from plus sign showed on the pregnancy test. In utero, he heard only negative words about the rotten luck of being pregnant. Sometimes, he got knocked around or felt a little weird and woozy after mom drank. He was born premature, too small, and with numerous health problems due to Mom’s hazardous life habits.
Baby B spent months in the hospital due to his health issues. Mom didn’t come back, and Baby B became a ward of the state, to be placed in an orphanage after his release from the hospital. He spent three months in the hospital being poked, prodded, examined. The nurses loved him, but they didn’t have the time to hold him the way a mother should.
At first, he cried, hoping someone would comfort him, but eventually he gave up crying and understood that logical consequences don’t exist. He must fend for himself. When he is picked up, he experiences pain — a new IV, a new test, surgery, etc. He begins to associate touch with pain. When he is released to the orphanage, the conditions improve, but he has too many responses to relearn. The staff tries to comfort him and feed him, but he is lethargic and unwilling to attach. He does not thrive, remaining underweight and behind physically and emotionally.
This is when the adoptive parents step onto the stage and enter the play.
From the beginning, these two babies have had two different worldviews. Baby A thinks she is the best-loved baby in the world. Everyone loves her. She is secure, and she knows that if she has a true need, it will be taken care of. Baby B feels lost and alone. He feels it is up to him to meet his own needs.
Child A has attached to her parents, while Baby B remains in a detached state. This diagram demonstrates the cycle of attachment:
When this cycle is broken in infancy, the baby is not able to attach to a parent/caregiver and may develop some form of RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder), depending on the severity of the neglect and the extent to which the parent did not respond to the baby’s needs.
“By mere definition of neglect, it is undeniable that children placed in orphanages at birth or at a young age are, in fact, victims of neglect. This is not because the orphanage staff doesn’t care for and love the children. Instead, it is because a child’s individual needs cannot be met in a group situation.
Out of necessity, children living in orphanages are forced into a routine, without the freedom to respond to physical and emotional cues relating to hunger, discomfort, bathrooming, pain, thirst, or a desire to be nurtured. The result is a pseudo-independence that mirrors the self-parenting label attached to neglected children in America.” – Parenting the Hurt Child
Three of my children came from a loving and secure environment, and four of them came from the environment described above. As I parented all seven together, I received different responses based on their past experiences.
As I mentioned before, Baby A and Baby B respond differently to stimuli because of their vastly different introductions to life. It only makes sense that an adopted child may respond differently than a biological child. His response today is based on his past rather than his present experiences. This does not mean that the child is bad or that the situation is irreparable; it just means that the child needs retrained.
The Work of Helping Kids Attach
I’m running out of time. I need to hurry. That is the language of our culture. It is not the language of the hurt, unattached child. It was not the language of my daughter Ania. Like the women in The Music Man, her way was pick a little, talk a little — or, actually, talk a lot.
The incessant chatter of an unattached child can be unsettling, frustrating or wearing if you are hurrying. It was for me. The clock ticked loudly in my head, but Ania didn’t hear it. As we headed out the door and I helped Ania put on her coat, boots, and gloves, she talked, offering me little assistance. As I cooked, she talked. As I cleaned, she talked. When I folded laundry, she talked. When I bathed her, she talked.
When I was schooling her and required her to answer a question or repeat something, she shut down. Tears streamed down her chubby cheeks, and her glasses fogged over. Why? I required it of her. It wasn’t on her terms. It was on mine. She was not in control. I was.
Children with attachment issues do not like things to be required of them. To them, that feels like giving up their power and the control they have over their environment. That control is important because it’s how they ensure that no one hurts them again and no one starves them again — no one. Giving in to a phonics lesson is painful. Bombarding Mom with incessant chatter is power.
I took Ania’s chatter as an invitation into her world. As she chartered while I loaded the dishwasher, I gave her dishes to put in. When I set the table, I gave her silverware to set. While I did laundry, I let her stuff the washer. It wasn’t long before she was working and talking about the work. “Now, I am setting the forks on the table, momma — you see that? I put the forks on the table.”
She slowly moved from meaningless chatter to chronicling her day. From there, she developed the ability to have a conversation. Much more slowly, she started answering questions during schooling — albeit with tears running down her cheeks.
Attachment is so much more than physical needs being met. It is an emotional connection. In the 1940s and 50s, doctors were discovering through research (that I do not condone) that a baby needed his mother and longed for his mother not just as a food source but as an emotional connection.
Love. Spirit. A person is not made whole by their physical needs alone being met. We each have three parts: spirit, soul, and body. A baby recognizes his mother by her smell, the sound of her heartbeat, and her voice, and he can be calmed by these factors alone. Yes, he wants to be fed — but his emotional state is just as important. Rene Spitz’s research confirmed this definitively.
Babies need that connection to their mama for physical, emotional, and spiritual growth. When separated from their mothers, children’s physical development halted and regressed. We call those development delays. The “vacuous” face mentioned in the quote above signifies a loss of spirit. No emotion is visible. David describes his loss of spirit over and over again in the Psalms. It is a dangerous place to be. It is a pit. It is dark.
“He drew me up out of a horrible pit [a pit of tumult and of destruction], out of the miry clay (froth and slime), and set my feet upon a rock, steadying my steps and establishing my goings.
And He has put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many shall see and fear (revere and worship) and put their trust and confident reliance in the Lord.” (Ps. 40:2-3)
The difference between David and these unattached children is that He had a relationship with the Lord. When all was said and done, he cast his cares upon God.
It is my job as a parent to help my child out of the horrible pit of unattachment. Ania developed new habits and patterns as she did these “beside me” jobs. Incessant chatter turned into real conversations. Although she was learning great life skills, those were a secondary benefit. The attachment was the real prize. Today, she feels confident in sharing real thoughts and feelings with me, and she respects my input, even when she doesn’t agree with it.
The attachment cycle is as simple as it is profound. The infant expresses a need, the parent meets the need. This happens thousands of times and the child becomes attached, secure in the expectation he will be cared for. Kids who come to us through adoption/foster care often have had breaks in attachment. Join Kathleen as she shares what this looks like in this episode of Positive Adoption. Grab a cup of coffee and be sure to share this episode!
One Friday evening, many years ago, hubby Jerry was home, which was unusual for him. He asked where all the kids were. I gave him the rundown. Some were working, some at friends, others at practices. It rocked his world. I had many, many Fridays to get used to the idea that the kids were adulting-ish. It had slipped under his radar. He assumed the kids would always be home waiting for him.
Jerry and I have had many conversations over the years which led to us recording a podcast on the subject of kids adulting. We can’t be the only parents who have experienced the complex road of learning how to navigate this season. If you’d like to listen to the podcast, click here or just keep reading.
The Benefit of Teens Making Mistakes
When your kids are young adults, you must be patient enough to let them make mistakes and let them experience the consequences.
You have to let them fail. It’s better to let them fail under your roof where it is safe. Let them fall on their faces while you’re there rather than go out into the world and fall on their faces repeatedly. The truth is, we learn best from our mistakes. If your teen wants a part-time job and you know it’s not right for him and he insists. Let him. Let him experience failing while you’re there beside him.
Go to them.
It takes energy and time to invest in your children even when they are adulting. You continue to invest but it is well worth it. We don’t have value in this world without our relationship with God and our relationship with others. If we are spending all of our time investing in something else then we’re going to have an empty bank account at the end of our lives. No one says on their deathbed he wishes he had spent more time at work. It’s important that you don’t sit on your couch and wait for adult children to come back home. You’re going to have to be super proactive, especially if your kids get married and they start having kids. Say, “Hey let’s go get coffee.” Meet and buy their snacks and coffee and just sit there and talk. Go to them and remember, there’s a learning curve for them when they begin adulting.
It’s a learning curve for them and it’s a learning curve for us but since we are the older and more mature adults, we should have more wisdom. We need to be proactive about our parenting and offer time to them. We should never be finished with our relationships with our children. We parents should always be pursuing better relationships with our kiddos no matter what their age.
Find their interests.
When children are younger you have them in activities – whether it’s a musical instrument, a sporting type of activity, theatre, or something along that line, but you also need activities that are things that you do together. If you don’t have things you do together, your relationship won’t be as strong. Few kids get a college scholarship in one of their sporting activities. Ask yourself, is this activity going to do him any real good when they get older? The connections that they develop will not be around you and your family – it’ll be around the team and with the team did and unless you’re coaching it. Sporting connections will minimize the impact of the influence you can have on your children. Replacing some sporting or other activities with family connections will have an impact on what you are able to do with them as they get older. When you choose to find the things your kids are interested in and you participate in those, your ability to influence is greater. If you don’t, your ability to connect and spend time is going to diminish.
When They begin adulting-ish
When your kids are little, it takes more physical energy, when kids are adulting, it takes more emotional energy and your patience has to increase.
When our kiddos become adults we’re so used to parenting. We tell them to put their shoes away, put their dishes in the dishwasher, when to go to bed and when to get up. These parenting practices must change a bit when kiddos hit their older teens. Teens need to make some decisions on their own. This is the time to develop some coping mechanisms and learn how to manage their emotions. We sometimes have to take the parental hat off and come alongside them. We move into a new sphere of parenting that is more like a counselor, advocate, and sounding board. We’ve moved from telling them what to do all the time and to be their guide.
When the teens move on to adulthood, parents are someone they can come to for advice. Our adult kids can take it or they can not take it. I see so many parental relationships ruined or sidelined because parents will not give an inch if their adult children do not take their advice. This is not the place that you want to be your relationship with your children whether your children are teens or adults your relationship doesn’t need to be based on “my way or the highway.” It just does not work.
Sometimes you’re adulting child is not looking for your opinion or advice. Sometimes they just want someone to really listen to their heart or their struggle. Many times our kids just want to tell us what’s going on in their life. Simply listening and saying “Yeah, that’s great good job” or saying “That’s a really tough situation. I understand why you’re struggling.” Adult kiddos are not always coming to you because they want to know what you would do. They may just need a sounding board. If they ask that great question at the end -“What would you do?” – then that’s your opportunity. If you’re always cutting them off, you shut the conversation down. Jerry had this happen with our oldest. He decided to shut up and wouldn’t say anything for a season because Jerry was always trying to Dad him.
When your kids are adulting you’re trying to connect and you have to drop off the correction. It’s not your job to keep correcting. If we are Christians it is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict of sin. It is not our job.
I remember when we are going through ETC training, we were supposed to ask for kids what parts of our parenting were great and which weren’t. I asked the question with fear and trepidation. I felt like I did everything wrong. One of them said you didn’t do anything wrong and another one said she pointed out a couple of things. I survived. It’s okay to ask even if those answers are devastating. Maybe you’ll get – you were always correcting me. Guess what? When they are parenting, they can think about those things and say mom did it this way and I love that part of what she did but that part of what she did, I’m not going to do. If you can’t let that go then your pride is being the boss of you. Yes, it is painful. Yes, it is emotional. I will cry about those things but in the long run, it’s a good thing.
If you didn’t have a great family
If your family has all kinds of dysfunction – maybe they’re struggling with addictions or alcoholism or you grew up in an abusive situation. Maybe your family of origin is not the safest place for you to connect. Find another family to connect with. Find somebody else that you can be in relationship with and connect with. They’re out there. Other people are in the same situation that you are in. You’re not alone.
Want to hear more about this topic? Listen to Jerry and Kathleen share on:
Want to hear more about this topic? Listen to Jerry and Kathleen share on:
Marcy Holder joins Kathleen for a lively discussion on what happens when women are overwhelmed with the issues of life. Marcy is a Spiritually-Focused Personal Coach. In January, Marcy is hosting a four-week growth opportunity for women drowning in the details their lives who want to love their people well and live from a place of purpose but experience anger and anxiety they just can’t seem to shake, symptoms of heart disconnection. Grab a cup of coffee and join us!
In Heart Connection 101 you’ll learn how to cultivate growth and deepen your faith by connecting with your heart. *****************************
My own journey to connecting with my heart helped me sort through emotional and religious baggage that kept me from loving my people well and living a life of purpose. *****************************
Every Friday in January, I’ll send you a video sharing examples and principles that helped me reconnect with my heart. You’ll also receive printable materials for reading and personal reflection. I’ll be available for email support or you’re welcome to work through the material privately. On January 30th @ 7:00 we’ll do a group wrap-up zoom call. You’ll also receive several fun printables and a playlist to encourage your journey. ***************************
I’d invite you to message me with questions or more details.
Life can be overwhelming, busy, and messy but when it comes to choosing, Relationships Matter and Lists can Wait. Our relationships with both God and the people we love most become healthier and more rewarding when we’re connected to our hearts. ************************** You can find more info and sign up here!
When dad came to pick us kids up for summer visitation, the departure was swift.We packed our bags in the trunk of his car and rushed down the lane, leaving a trail of dust behind us, Mom growing smaller in the distance.
This is the moment that fear gripped me. The familiar faded away, and the unknown lay before me. The tense anxiety choked me while my stomach churned.
Down the highway we sped to another unknown destination. Dad rarely bothered to sit down and explain where we were going and what it would be like this time. The landscape changed from the hills of West Virginia to the bluegrass of Kentucky or the plains of Iowa, where we once raced beside a tornado as it ate up the fields beside us.
Every year, it was a new home in a new state. And every year, it was the same unstable summer, with our travel and activities dictated by someone else’s moodiness or alcoholism. New places did not fill me with hope. They were foreign landscapes with no known retreats or safe hideaways from the too-familiar emotional climate.
The unrest filtered down to me and cemented my fear and presupposition: “There is nothing good in the world.“
My past gave me a faulty picture of the world. Even today, I struggle with sitting in the backseat of a car. I need to know where we are going on a trip. I don’t just want the directions — I want to see the map.
My early life sometimes still dictates my now. I know that, and I have strategies to deal with it. My friends know, so they let me sit in the front or drive. It took me years to figure out why I didn’t like to sit in the back seat or why panic rose up in me. Knowing the why helps me deal with it.
Our adopted children don’t know the why or the how. They see through the lens of their past, and it is like an old camera. The view is scratched and distorted, and they may blame us, the adoptive parents, for it. Can you imagine if I went on a road trip with my friends and blamed them for my fear of riding in the back seat?
But children have a difficult time separating their past from their now.
If they could, our adopted children might say:
You are not responsible for the trauma that happened to me before I came into your family, but I will act like it. If you let guilt rule the home, we will both be miserable, and neither of us will experience any healing.
Separating our children’s past from their now is a difficult aspect of adoption. We parents must be the mature ones and not let their reactions to past events determine our reactions to current events. If we do react negatively, then we will live in a constant state of civil war, and more wounds will be inflicted. No healing will take place, and the child will be orphaned (rejected) twice.
I don’t have my reactions mastered. I wish I did. I am writing this because my daughter Audrey says I should share things that I wish someone would have told me. I wish someone had told me this: Many of us who have the heart for adoption — especially the desire to adopt a large sibling group of children — have had a troubled past ourselves. The desire directs us to adopt, but it doesn’t equip us. We must equip and educate ourselves.
No one told me that my past and my adopted children’s pasts would engage in a tug of war to the death.
We both had a faulty lens on our camera. Guess who had to change hers first? Me. Guess who had to die? Me. My flesh. Guess who messed up, often? Me.
We assume that wrestling with the child means a physical fight, and if we are not careful, that is what it becomes. Daily. And there is no healing that way.
Consider Ephesians 6:12 —
For we are not wrestling with fleshandblood [contending only with physical opponents], but against the despotisms, against the powers, against [the master spirits who are] the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spirit forces of wickedness in the heavenly (supernatural) sphere.
I have always loved this verse. It sounds so mystical, mysterious. We aren’t supposed to engage in a fight with physical opponents, so how do we fight these master spirits who are the rulers of this present darkness? Ephesians 6:11 commands us to put on our armor so that we will be able to stand up against the strategies and deceits of the devil. This is war!
Adoption is war — a spiritual battle. We are not fighting with a physical sword, though. Our sword is the Word. Our belt is truth. Our feet must be shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace. We raise our shield to protect us from the fiery darts of the wicked one. We put on our helmet of salvation (deliverance) and breastplate of righteousness.
What does this look like in reality? Sometimes it means we just stand. We don’t react when our child melts down and blames us for his hurt, for his feeling rejected. We speak the truth in love: “Man, that stinks! How does that make you feel?” And we redirect, “What do you think we could do about that?”
When we disengage our right to react, we become powerful.
And more important than any of the above, we pray a prayer for healing. Place your child’s name in the blanks:
__________is not harassed by physical symptoms or feelings or their supposed connections to past events. The curse of rejection and abandonment is broken. _____________ is a new creature with a heavenly Father who loves _________, the Stronghold is broken, and the sticky web of the past is dissolved. ___________has forgiven and _________ is forgiven. ______________is washed clean and ____________ reactions are based on the Word and the new creature that _____________is, not the old, fearful, anxious child that _______________was. NO! ____________ is a strong, assertive child of the King, a co-inheritor with Christ. ________________ has all the benefits that He has bestowed upon me. ______________is more than a conqueror through Christ Jesus.
I’ve been talking about attachment on my Whole House Lives on Facebook. Here are some of the points-
When parenting a child who has had trauma in their lives, we must consider the child’s mistaken goals and direct the child to new goals. If you want to know more about trauma, listen to our podcast– The Six Risk Factors.
Unless you pay attention to me, I am nothing. I have a place only when you are busy with me
Struggle for power
Retaliation and revenge
* From Driekurs’s Children the Challenge
A child stuck in survival mode or who has attachment issues, or both can vault like an Olympian between these mistaken goals and we parents can get stuck reacting to them.
Disciplining the unattached child is part of the package deal. We can’t attach to a child and ignore their mistaken goals. The child won’t let us. They will be our face, day and night.
Traditional Parenting Doesn’t Work with Kids From Hard Places
I have a confession to make. I tried spanking. I know, it is often viewed in harsh light nowadays. The media likes to paint a violent picture of a parent with a wide leather strap foaming at the mouth, who is angrily wailing on the child. That is not spanking in the proper sense. Spanking is a calm, cool parent with loving intentions, one who has not given into angry resentments. The parent speaks calmly to the child about the consequence. There is a purpose and a process that works with a child who has been raised in a secure environment, not for a child who has already experienced abuse and neglect.
This is not a post about spanking. I just want to point out that it didn’t work with my adopted children. It often ended up in a physical tussle. Meltdowns could end that way too if I intervened at the wrong time.
I learned the hard way and through trial and error to leave spanking behind and focus on training (more of this subject later). I just wanted to touch on this subject briefly before I move on. If someone had recorded the spankings I gave my kids with them thrashing, hitting, kicking me and my tiny frame trying to hold them down. It wasn’t pretty. It backfired. I often ended up bruised and sore from them. I am baring my soul for your sake and the sake of your children.
New Members of the Family
I’ve talked about some rudimentary basics of attachment, purpose (work) and discipline on my live last week. These are intertwined, just as our spirit, body, mind and emotions are intertwined. A child with attachment difficulties is like a new convert in the church. They have been wounded and battered by the rules of this present darkness, working through humans, wars, famines, and all sorts of evil. These children come into the family with mistaken goals, just as new converts come into the church with faulty foundations. They aren’t sure how to behave, outwardly, physically, what to think, mind and emotions and how to actually walk in the spirit, the pair of themselves they have ignored until the day they joined the family of God.
Now, they are new creatures, family members in the house of God the Father, siblings with the son of God, yet they still slide off their chairs during dinner hour and eat scraps off the floor because they don’t know how to sit at the table. They horde manna because they don’t know that Jehovah Jireh provides only for today because today has sufficient worry of its own. All of the “Praise the Lord!” lingo is strange, just as it is weird to call a man “Daddy”, it may have a different and scary meaning for a child/convert raise by a daddy who reeked of alcohol and beat them. Will this new daddy be strict? Will the child slip into retaliation mode? This rears its ugly head when a power struggle ensues. Some people because of their past controllers cannot or will not listen to any branch of authority, so they come into the church family reluctant, refusing to take any advice and chafing at any restrictions.
“In many cases the child’s erroneous ideas and mistaken goals underlying his misbehavior are so well entrenched that it may take more than a correct response to the various acts of provocation. One may have to work toward a deep reconstruction of the child’s basic assumptions, of his personality pattern.” – Children the Challenge, Rudolf Dreikurs, M.D.
The basic beliefs or assumptions must replace the child’s mistaken goals:
I am valuable even if you are not always paying attention to me. I am a son of God and therefore a sibling of Jesus, and heir to the promises of God
I am not in control of everything, neither do I need to be. God is in control and He will take care of me. I can submit to some authority and trust God is in control..
I do not need to retaliate. I can forgive and I am forgiven. I do not be in angry defensive mode. I need to be in trusting acceptance mode.
I do not need to give up on life. I have a purpose. God created me to do good works and I will do them regardless of my past circumstances. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
“For as many [of you] as were baptized into Christ [into a spiritual union and communion with Christ] the Anointed one, the Messiah] have put on (clothed yourselves with Christ).
There is [now no distinction] neither Jew, nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free there is not male or female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
And if you belong to Christ [are in Him who is Abraham’s seed], then you are Abraham’s offspring and spiritual heirs according to the promise. – Galatians 3: 27-29
This is a new way of living that says “I can’t act the way I feel like acting anymore. I can’t act impulsively. I cannot run around in survival mode and be a functioning member of a family.”
Most of us came into the family of God in survival mode, i.e., in the flesh, but born of the Spirit. Our names are written in the Lambs book of life. The adoption decree is sealed. We legally belong, but our assumptions haven’t caught up. We don’t believe it. So, we must be patient with our children who come into our families with a different set of values and beliefs. We must parent them with the tools that will lead them to feel secure.
This week on The Whole House Podcast, we talked about Parenting Against the Grain or parenting counter-culturally. Here are some notes and the podcast itself:
Attachment parenting (AP) is a parenting philosophy that proposes methods which aim to promote the attachment of mother and infant not only by maximal maternal empathy and responsiveness but also by continuous bodily closeness and touch.
Breaks in attachment cause all sorts of issues, developmental delays, learning delays, fears and lack of cause and effect thinking. A child who has had significant breaks in attachment has problems with self-regulation.
“Austrian psychoanalyst and physician Rene Spitz proposed an alternate theory. He thought that infants in institutions suffered from lack of love–that they were missing important parental relationships, which in turn was hurting or even killing them.
To test his theory, he compared a group of infants raised in isolated hospital cribs with those raised in a prison by their own incarcerated mothers. If the germs from being locked up with lots of people were the problem, both groups of infants should have done equally poorly. In fact, the hospitalized kids should have done better, given the attempts made at imposing sterile conditions. If love mattered, however, the prisoners’ kids should prevail.
Love won: 37% of the infants kept in the bleak hospital ward died, but there were no deaths at all amongst the infants raised in the prison. The incarcerated babies grew more quickly, were larger and did better in every way Spitz could measure. The orphans who managed to survive the hospital, in contrast, were more likely to contract all types of illnesses. They were scrawny and showed obvious psychological, cognitive and behavioral problems.
Spitz’s study suggested severe mortality risk–more than one in three died–for institutionalized infants. It showed that serious mental health and behavioral problems could result from not having at least one loving parent devoted to a particular child. For decades, however, this research was either ignored or dismissed by behaviorists and others who couldn’t believe that something as vague and seemingly immeasurable as parental love could matter that much.”-Forbes
Dr. Karyn Purvis- Investment Parenting takes time.
The Whole House Craft and Cookie Day! It’s today! We are making cookies and doing some Christmas 🎄 crafts! It will be loud and crazy. Lots of kids and moms and sugar! Do you do a Christmas Craft Day?
Maybe you’re reading this and thinking, yeah, right? I couldn’t do this! My kids would whine, fight and that would be the end of it.
Can I tell you something? You’re probably right. Your kids may whine. Some of them may not want to do every craft or cookie. Things might go wrong. It won’t be perfect. Do it anyway.
WHAT?! Yes, do it anyway! Forming a habit of celebration means things won’t be exactly the way you picture them. It will be worth it in the long run. Every time you practice the habit of celebration, you build a memory. Every time you build a memory with your child, you are reinforcing connection.
I have had some cookie days gone wrong, so I speak from experience. I’m preaching to the Guire here. I have four boys who liked to make cookie mounds and messes on cookie days. This totally messed with perfectionist Mama until I changed my attitude. And it was hard to change my attitude. I wanted perfectly decorated cookies like you see on the Instagram accounts and Pinterest.
One year, I drove to my daughter’s house in another state and left my cookie dough at home. Everyone thought I would have tons of cookie dough, so no one else made any. Daughter Audrey ran out to get some. We used store bought that year (perfectionist me loses again). And…we had a blast!
When we remember the goal and purpose of the habit of celebration, it makes it easier to practice it. When we expect the celebration to be perfect, we are less likely to practice the habit.
The goal of celebration is time spend together, celebrating people, not things. The purpose of celebration is connection. We connect with our children, family and friends. We when participate in celebration with a light, joyful attitude, the connection grows. When we expect perfect circumstances and perfectly behaved children, we will be disappointed and our attitudes will sour (been there, done that).
Let’s build some memories this year! Plan a cookie and craft day. Don’t stress about it looking like Pinterest Perfect Posts. Make it real and fun. Practice the habit of celebration and build some memories!
Friend Patty was sporty, fit and planned to become an astronaut. Instead, she became a wife and mother. Patty didn’t feel as if she had a mothering instinct. Lovey-dovey stuff didn’t come easy to her. She worked hard to curb her military manner. Because she worked so hard, she became an excellent parent. One of the best I have had the privilege of knowing. She lived in the moment and believed her children are precious. Her children are grown now and thriving.
Patty was my first honest Mom friend. She told me the truth about how she felt about Mothering. She felt as if she had to overcome many personality obstacles to be nurturing. By the grace of God, she did. I’m thankful for her honesty. She inspired me to work against the grain of my flesh and be a purposeful parent.
Honestly, being loving and nurturing toward our children is hard work. Why? Because it requires true Biblical love and that is the hardest kind of love on the planet. It’s the kind of love that doesn’t fail, hardly notices when it has been wrong and this kind of love believes the best of everyone.
Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. Love doesn’t strut, Doesn’t have a swelled head, Doesn’t force itself on others, Isn’t always “me first,” Doesn’t fly off the handle, Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others, Doesn’t revel when others grovel, Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, Puts up with anything, Trusts God always, Always looks for the best, Never looks back, But keeps going to the end. (I Corinthians 13: 7b, The Message)
“Our culture depicts a “good mother” as an angel in the house who is naturally sweet, self-denying, and eternally loving. The media creation expectations that mother-love, like our culturally formed vision of romantic love, is something you fall into, a delightful sinkhole that leaves you so sated that you don’t want to climb out.”- Leslie Fields via Parenting is Your Highest Calling and 8 Other Myths That Trap Us in Worry and Guilt
While there may be sunny days when everything goes just right for five minutes and we have coffee, most days aren’t picture perfect. Although we love our children, some days we just don’t like them. They behave badly and we’re exhausted. We dangle at the end of our rope. It’s in these moments, behind closed doors,that Biblical nurturing love is hardest to walk out. It’s in these moments that we woman can not do anything in our own strength. It’s in these moments that Christ’s suffering is close. He meets us there on the battlefield. He understands. It’s in those moments when our flesh is fierce.
My counsel is this: Live freely, animated and motivated by God’s Spirit. Then you won’t feed the compulsions of selfishness. For there is a root of sinful self-interest in us that is at odds with a free spirit, just as the free spirit is incompatible with selfishness. These two ways of life are antithetical, so that you cannot live at times one way and at times another way according to how you feel on any given day. Why don’t you choose to be led by the Spirit and so escape the erratic compulsions of a law-dominated existence?- Galatians 5:17
We are naturally selfish beings. Our regenerated spirit wars with the flesh. What does that mean? We want our own way. We joylessly grab for whatever we think will make us happy at the moment, five more minutes sleep, one more chapter, a perfectly clean home, a late night movie. We develop a brutal temper when we don’t get what we want. When we do get what we want as a result of yelling or manipulation, we feel lonely, empty, depleted and a deep sense of shame. I know. Lived there in the pit myself. It’s muddy and stinky. There is no peace in the ‘me first’ land of motherhood.
So, what’s the answer? How do we nurture our children when we just want to be left alone? How do we become the nurturing, loving Mother we want to become. How do we fight our selfish nature? One moment at a time. One prayer at a time. One renewing our mind and our bodies at a time. One desperate prayer at a time. When we submit to God’s way, it doesn’t mean we will feel joyful at the time. We constantly have our own Garden of Gethsemane moments.
In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.- Hebrews 12:4
Motherhood may be the hardest work you”ll ever do. If you are having one of those days when you hit your nurture groove, enjoy it! If you are having a day when behaviors are straining every nerve, I hear you. I know. It’s hard. Keep praying. Keep asking. Don’t give up. Endeavors requiring the most selfless effort yield the most fruit. Obstacles don’t mean you have failed. They mean you are running the right course.
But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.- Galatians 5: 22-23
Nurturing occurs on a battlefield for hearts and minds. It is on the home front we are winning souls and making disciples. “Discipleship is the work of a lifetime, and it comes… sometimes slowly… in fits and starts….two steps forward, one step back…When we develop a long-range vision believe God’s promise that our work will not go unrewarded. Grace is the heart attitude that grants others the freedom to listen and learn so that they grow, they master the skill of cultivating long-term relationships.” (Sally Clarkson) The goal of nurturing is attachment. The goal of attachment is long term relationships. Relationships with our children transfer to relationships with God the Father.